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Aloha, friends! Well, my summer vacation is drawing to a close, but this past weekend I crossed off three things on my “must do” list! Stairway to Heaven was one, photographing a sea turtle was two, and seeing Oahu from the air was the final one! This, boys and girls, is it. I’m glad it was one of the last things on this trip, because I got to revisit several of my previous adventures from 1,500 feet! This is the Cessna we flew in.We almost didn’t get to go up! The weather was less than pleasant yesterday morning, and this is a small plane. It would’ve been tossed around like a leaf on the wind if the conditions had stayed like that. But we got the call around 10 that we were set to go, but it may be a little bumpy. Here we are preparing for takeoff.We headed up to the North Shore. Captain Kevin Loughnane, our pilot (and Kelsey’s boss at work), flew over the water so that we could follow the shore. It was beautiful! I cannot get over how bright and jewel-toned the water is!This valley has been the location for several big movies, including Jurassic Park and Windtalkers.Look how clear the water is. You can see everything below!We also passed the previous day’s hike. You can just barely make out the radar station in the clouds.The water is deeper here, around Makapu’u Lighthouse. And here’s a small island off the coast from Makapu’u.We flew by the butt-kicking Koko Crater.And nearby Hanauma Bay, which is a popular snorkeling spot.And one final shot of the coast before we went in for a landing.How’s that for adventure? I’m so thankful to Captain Loughnane for offering me this unique opportunity to view the island from the air! And I couldn’t repay Kelsey’s hospitality this summer if I had two lifetimes to do it! But I can keep saying thank you!
Readers, don’t think I’m done yet. My plane leaves on Thursday, so I plan on trying to fit in at least one more adventure.
Last night, I headed out solo to the Haleiwa Jodo Mission. Why? To watch and photograph their lantern floating ceremony. I got there early thanks to advice from the internet, and kinda just wandered around for awhile. I’d settled under a palm tree and had just finished up a FaceTime chat with my love when I heard people talking about turtles on the beach. So, of course, I went to check it out. Holy smokes, there were a lot of them! All just chilling in the afternoon sun, no apparent notice of all the people!Look how cute they are!A reminder, dear readers, that these and other endangered animals should be given plenty of space and not be touched at all!This is why a telephoto lens is a must! After I documented the turtles, I headed to a clear spot of beach to wait for the sunset. I caught a lonely bubble that had escaped from some kids playing a little ways away.Some people in a kayak passed by.And a festival attendee stopped to snap a couple pictures of the golden sky.Then the way was finally clear for me to capture the setting sun.I hung around for about another hour when it started to rain. The lantern float wasn’t scheduled to start until 9 o’clock, and this girl had gotten up at 2:15 in the morning for a hike. I was tired, and it was dark and rainy. I was happy to have seen the crowd of turtles and a beautiful sunset. I don’t regret heading out early, considering what traffic was going to look like after the festival was done. Besides, I had another exciting day planned for tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Ever since my first week on the island, I’ve had the Haiku Stairs, a.k.a. “Stairway to Heaven,” on my to-hike list. We finally tackled it yesterday! As with a few of my adventures, the morning started very early. We were out the door by 2:45 to beat the security guard to the start avoid a bright, hot hike. 🙂
After a couple wrong turns, we made it to the base of the stairs and started climbing. The moon was bright enough through the clouds that it wasn’t pitch black, but we brought a headlamp and flashlight just in case. The stairs have railing on both sides, which offered a little security as we ascended, though the condensation on the metal was a little unnerving. We moved cautiously. Most of the reviews I’d read said that the climb to the first platform was the hardest, and I’d have to agree with them. It was very steep most of the way, with some parts being practically vertical (was I seriously climbing a slippery ladder at 4 o’clock in the morning?!). They are also narrow, which makes it interesting when you have hikers who want to pass. We didn’t have anyone try to pass us from below, but there were hikers already heading back down as we were climbing up. There’s not room to pass on the stairs, so one group has to climb to the outside of the railing to let the other group pass. Hikers are pretty chill people, though, because nobody had to argue about who would pass and who would cling to the outside. We took our turns, and there were no missteps. We made it to the first platform, where we took a short breather with several other adventurers.
We didn’t stay long. Just enough to catch our breath and drink some water. The day’s first light was beginning to illuminate the sky as we climbed to the second platform, and by the time we got there, we saw some lovely colors.But we still weren’t to the top, so we kept climbing. By the time we reached the satellite station at the end of the trail, the sun was fully up.Unfortunately, we were in the clouds at our elevation. But they started to clear up enough to see below us.The box on the hill down there was the second platform. You can’t see the first platform from where we were up here. We headed back down after a bit, and when I got back to the second platform, I took some more photos at the pillbox now that there was enough light.I also thought I should document what the stairs look like when you can see them. I took this shot of the first stretch as we were climbing back down it.I’ve decided to split this day into two posts to limit the number of photos loading on one page. Stay tuned.
Well, after a rest day on Sunday after our conquering of Olomana Trail, it was time for another hike. My destination this time was Mt. Ka’ala, the highest point on Oahu. My guide today is Sarah, who moved to the island a year ago, and is a teacher at a local middle school. She’s tackled this trail twice before, but never yet reached the top.
I’d hoped to change that, but it apparently wasn’t in the cards. This was a tough hike from the get-go. The beginning of the trail is actually a Water Department service road, like what we found hiking to Hamama Falls, only here it was paved. That did not make it easier. The incline was so steep from the start that my calves started complaining less than half a mile in! The road was about a mile (give or take), and then we got to actual trail. It was nicely shaded, and the incline leveled out for a very short time before starting up again for the entire remainder of the hike, c’mon! We moved through some macadamia nut groves and a patch of strawberry guava (very refreshing at this point).The steep grade meant pretty cool views, though.And clouds coming down the mountain.But alas, I was struggling up the trail. My legs were like lead. By the time we’d reached 3,600 feet, I was moving in slow motion. Sarah was observant enough to suggest we turn back, since there might not be anything to see through the clouds anyway. Bless her. I’m stubborn enough that my kneecaps could’ve fallen off and I’d still have pulled myself by my arms rather than admit it was too much. That was a real possibility anyway, because anyone who’s had knee problems knows that it’s not climbing up that gets ya, it’s the climbing down. Looked like another dose of ice packs to the knees was in my future. We did meet a friend on the way back down.I’m not sure what kind of bird this is (if anyone knows, give me a shout in the comments). It kind of looks like a pheasant, but its colors are very dull for what I picture a typical pheasant to be. Maybe it’s a female? Anyway, it walked ahead of us for a bit before deciding it didn’t like being followed and disappeared back into the brush. We made it to the car (kneecaps still attached…barely), and we headed in search of food. One of Sarah’s go-to places on her lunch breaks during the school year is Ka‘aha‘ainaCafe, which is actually part of the Waianae Comprehensive Health Center campus. Yep, the hospital cafeteria is one of her favorite eateries. And I totally understand why! First off, check out the view:And their menu changes daily based on what’s caught and harvested fresh. The catch of the day yesterday was grilled ahi with a sweet chili dressing, rice, and a mixed greens salad with sprouts and a dressing made of, I assume, unicorn tears. Seriously, I got a little misty-eyed as I savored all the different flavors on my plate. My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.I ordered a lava flow smoothie to go along with it, which is basically a virgin piña colada with strawberry purée. Yum!
And that was my attempt at conquering Mt. Ka’ala. Sadly, I will probably not have time to challenge it again before I leave the island (not that I’d be in any better shape to reach the top in a week). Guess it’ll have to be on the agenda next time I come to Oahu.
This past Saturday, Kelsey and I tackled Olomana Trail (Three Peaks) again, this time going all the way to the third peak. It was a challenge! Getting to the first peak wasn’t too bad. I’m in better shape than I was the first time we did this hike, so getting there didn’t take us as long, and the view was as magnificent as ever.Getting to the second peak wasn’t too difficult, either. Not too much actual climbing involved. It wasn’t until the top of peak two moving onto peak three that the real challenge started.Yes, that’s Kelsey rappelling down the side of a mountain with a rope that’s tied to a tree. I should put in a disclaimer here that several of the hikes on this blog are listed as moderate or strenuous. Meaning, if you’re not in fairly good shape (or if you’re not completely insane), then you probably should not attempt these. There were no tragic missteps on the way down the ropes, and we continued on. The ridge was narrow at some points, with sheer drop-offs along either side. We made our way carefully to the next big obstacle, which was this rock……which looks like it’s giving a thumbs-up. At first I wasn’t sure if it was an encouraging thumbs-up, or just a sarcastic one. Then I saw that we had to climb down to the left and around that rock, clinging to the side of it because there was nothing but air to catch you. So, sarcastic. In the spirit of adventure, I still managed to hold on and snap a quick photo looking up at the rock.This, too, we survived, and then had more climbing to do (as you can see in the background of the picture with Kels and the “thumbs-up” rock). Eventually, we made it to the third peak, and I got a view of the first two and more of the windward side of the island.We rested for a bit and ate our sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly for me) while enjoying the nice breeze. Ah, we felt so accomplished! Until we realized that we had to do that entire thing again, only in reverse.
Oh, well. We made it back and I rewarded myself with ice packs on both knees and a nice peppermint-infused epsom salt foot soak, followed by a day of doing not-a-darn-thing.
By the way, Grant, I saved the scary pictures till after the hike so that you wouldn’t worry. You’re welcome. 😉
This morning, I dropped Kelsey off at work and decided to check out the lookout park off Pali Highway. Very close to downtown Honolulu, Pali Lookout offers great views of the windward side of the island. When I went this morning, it was still hazy from the clouds that cling to the mountains overnight.
After a very relaxed July 4th, where we went and watched a movie (Man of Steel) and stayed home the rest of the time, we were ready to tackle another hike. I wanted to give Grant a taste of what hiking is in Hawaii. So, we decided to revisit Hamama Falls, which Devlin and I had enjoyed on a rainy morning. This time we had the whole crew. Kels has a 4-day weekend. Hamama Falls is listed as a moderate hike because of the steady incline that really gets your blood pumping. We figured it was enough of a challenge for Grant, but not too much of one to deter him from going out again (so Three Peaks is not a good idea for a first hike). It was a much brighter day than when Devlin and I hiked it last, so we sunscreened it up.It was pretty brutal. We made lots of short stops in what shade we could find, and dipped our toes into little streams along the way.But we eventually made it to the falls.Kelsey promptly climbed them, monkey that she is.And Grant took off his shoes and let his feet soak in the cool water.We passed a handful of people this time, but we still had the falls to ourselves. I think this is a hike best reserved for a cloudy day, because it is pretty exposed for most of it. Grant says he’ll stick to the “easy” hikes in the future. I guess you have to work up to the more difficult ones.
Speaking of which…
I’m thinking of running a contest for my readers. I’ve only got a few more weeks here, and I want to take full advantage of my time, but I also want to engage you all in my trip. I’m going to create a new contest and link it to my Facebook page. So keep your eyes open for that.
Yesterday, Devlin and I headed out to Hamama Falls. The trail leading up the falls is actually a service road used by the Board of Water Supply, so it was pretty easy to traverse, if a little steep at times. The air was heavy with water, so with nowhere to evaporate, the sweat from our exertion was dripping down our faces, even though it wasn’t particularly hot. In fact, this entire valley seems to get quite a bit of moisture, just judging from the lush foliage and the mushrooms growing on trees.Hawaii is a popular place to film movies and TV shows. I found out that Manoa Falls was one of the filming locations for the next Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire.Jurassic Park is another movie franchise that has footage filmed on Oahu, so sometimes our hikes are reminiscent of those films. Then we run into structures like this:and we’re convinced that we’ll run into a pack of Compsognathus, or perhaps a Velociraptor. Alas, no dinosaurs for us today. Instead we were rewarded with a lovely waterfall.No hikes on the agenda today or tomorrow. We need to rest up for Koko Crater on Saturday, which all the reviews say is a beast of a workout. Looking forward to getting my butt kicked by it!